Morgan Wirtz from Brussels co-founded and serves as a CEO of a very progressive and inspiring money app called RISE. Since starting the company two years ago, he has raised a $1.9 million seed round and gathered a team of 20 experts to build a bank for teenagers, helping them with their spending and savings.
Morgan also managed to make ‘Forbes Europe 30 Under 30 in Technology list being the youngest on the list (Morgan is 23yo). We had the pleasure of getting an exclusive chance to interview Morgan about his short yet very interesting career and his ambitions with RISE.
Morgan, you were a Red Bull-sponsored sailor. And then you decided to drop out of university. How did this get you to entrepreneurship and eventually co-founding RISE?
The way I connect sports and my entrepreneurial journeys is that for me, it’s actually one similar journey. Doing sports at a high level really helped me so much with my entrepreneurship. It is because the values you have behind sports at a high level are exactly the same values that you can carry on while you’re actually building your business.
This means you have to be creative, you have to give great performance, you have to be able to surround yourself with great people, be innovative, and all those values that you’re learning in business along the way I was learning super early on, but in sports. And when I wanted to build my career as an entrepreneur, I was able to carry on those values. And then we ended up building RISE.
And what has led you there?
So financial education is absolutely an issue that is very, very important to me and an issue that I always wanted to address. If you consider my generation and I’m still 23, in secondary school, my friends around me were already talking about finance because finance is becoming such a topic even for teenagers and kids. Even at such an early age, we were talking about investments.
One of the obvious topics at school is that the teens are talking to each other about crypto. And I started to observe the neobanking industry and I was trying to understand why neobanks and traditional banks are not serving teens and kids as specific segments. So I saw an opportunity for a “new” neobank that would do so.
However, there are some products that are similar. Like, for example, GoHenry from the UK, or challenger banks with their options for teens like Revolut <18. So what makes you stand out?
First of all, in our primary market, Belgium, there is nothing going on. So seeing competition abroad is just a good sign, that tells you “Okay, there is clearly an opportunity there.” instead of “Well, there are competitors, and we are scared of them.”
Also, this is not the kind of market where “the winner takes all”. That’s absolutely not the case in Europe. And considering how we are we are different – we honestly believe that to create a new financially savvy generation, it is very important to actually address the parents.
First of all, the parent is the person who has the power of making decisions, who has the power to actually open the account, and so on. And therefore choosing a relevant experience for the child. So that’s why we are very much focused on addressing the parent.
This means you target the parent in terms of marketing or how do you address the parent?
It is much deeper than that. It is indeed in terms of marketing, but also in the way you’re actually building your brand. You have to build a brand that teenagers are excited about but also a brand with which parents can connect with. And it’s a very thin line. If we go too extreme in one direction, which is “this is made to appeal to teens” parents will feel completely disconnected.
This is why we’ve worked so hard to make a great parent app and parent experience.
And the last point on how we are different: Back to school was a big period for us. We grew in such terms that we started getting a lot of interest from traditional banks. So now, we are very much looking into aspects of how we can partner with a bank because we see so many synergies and we can provide a lot of value for them in terms of financial education and user experience for kids and teens.
On your roadmap, is it more about connecting with high street banks, and providing solutions for them, compared to becoming a digital bank yourself, or what exactly is on your roadmap?
As I mentioned, we’ve got, surprisingly, a lot of interest from traditional banks. And yes, that’s something we are looking into right now. So we will see what the future will tell us. We see so many synergies with them right now and at the end of the day, this will have a bigger impact on our mission, which is all about education.
In terms of revenue and profitability – does your subscription plan work for you? Or is it something that you are not paying attention to so much? What is the idea?
I believe, especially if you are an early-stage company, you have to work with focus, and if you focus on building your best products and at the same time on being profitable… Simply, this is not really how it works in the tech industry.
Of course, you have to have in mind a clear path on how to become profitable. And it has to make sense, financially speaking.
Connecting with the high street banks, that’s something we are looking into. But the base model is that parents are paying a monthly fee to educate their children. And that’s the beauty about neobanks for kids, it’s one of the few FinTech models, where every customer is a parent that is paying a monthly fee to use the product so we deliver a lot of value on education for their children.
Since you are 23 you still have quite a similar experience with finances that teenage people are having. Is it something that led you to this idea or how was your personal growth in becoming financially savvy?
It definitely was a mix of my personal banking experience to come up with this idea.
I was a customer of a high street bank in Belgium. And I didn’t care about my bank, not at all. The experience was just the experience that my parents had. Of course with some limitations but I had the same user experience. I just didn’t care at all. I had a payment card. I could pay with it. And that was it.
I didn’t have any personal connection with my bank. I wouldn’t even call it an experience as a child considering my bank or the app. And therefore there was nothing related to financial education. When I was young, I didn’t even think about it. I was just thinking about spending my money and that was it.
Are there any companies or CEOs that you admire?
Not specifically in the neobanking industry but more in the general tech industry. Airbnb, for instance, is a company I’m very much looking up to, for different reasons. One, because they are very much ‘product people’. And I feel that I’m a product guy as well.
Also because of the brand, they’ve built, and that’s the second thing I’m really looking at – how to build a real brand that connects with you.
And considering FinTech companies, how do you feel about the situation Klarna finds itself in?
Honestly, I know how hard entrepreneurship can be. So I have much more respect for those people considered than I have criticism. I mean, when I look at the CEO of Klarna, or whichever tech company, they got hit big but if you look at their journey, it is still an extraordinary journey.
Even if the company was worth almost 50 billion, and now it’s worth five or six, it is still a massive, successful entrepreneurial journey. So I have a lot of respect for those people and for what they’ve built.
What are your plans for the future considering expansion?
From the first day, we’ve been investing a lot in technology to make sure we have a very strong tech, and the reason behind that is that we indeed want to scale at some point. We want to go outside of Belgium, that’s for sure.
And at what stage of funding are you at? Are you maybe looking even for investors at this point?
Now we want to focus on launching the products. If we keep having feedback and we keep on improving what we have, this will get us to the next stage.